BP Gets Approval, Begins Procedure To Test Gulf Well
Previous news: Stunning setback: After days of progress, BP freezes work in Gulf
Live feeds from the Gulf of Mexico ROVs
BP said Wednesday it was fixing a leaky pipeline as part of steps to begin testing a new system that could stop oil gushing out of a broken well in the Gulf of Mexico.
Prior to starting the test, BP said it found a leak in a "choke line," or pipeline connected to a new cap that the company has placed over the broken well. BP will fix the leak before starting the well integrity test, the company said on its Web site.
BP had postponed starting the test, originally scheduled for Tuesday, after Obama administration officials ordered a delay to resolve concerns that the tests could lead to a bigger oil leak. Wednesday evening the government cleared BP to go ahead with the test, which the company has said could take as long as two days.
"This last minute evaluation was due to an overabundance of caution," said retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen Wednesday evening.
BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells said late Wednesday that the company would proceed with the test, after undertaking certain procedures. Wells said BP would gradually reduce the flow of oil from the well head, check for leaks in the system and fix any leaks before starting the test. Wells said the test would begin when the oil had been completely shut in.
"The test will proceed, as planned, with some additional monitoring and consultation along the way," BP told reporters during a teleconference.
Sealing the well would be a turning point in a nearly three-month environmental and economic crisis along the U.S. Gulf Coast caused by the April 20 explosion and subsequent sinking of Transocean Ltd.'s (RIG) Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.
Federal and independent scientists have estimated that between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels of oil have been flowing into the Gulf from the broken well each day.
For the past several weeks, a more loosely fitting cap and the Q4000 system had managed to keep up to about 25,000 barrels of oil a day out of the Gulf. The new sealing-cap system will either completely shut in the oil from the broken well or alternatively, will allow the recovery of 60,000 barrels to 80,000 barrels a day, BP said.
BP and government officials say that two relief wells, which are at least two weeks away from completion, are the only way to permanently plug the leak.
BP has delayed drilling on the relief wells as a precaution, to avoid any disruption of testing to see how the well holds up underneath the cap.
Some of the oil previously gushing from the well head appeared to have stopped late Wednesday, although oil was still flowing into the sea, according to a live video feed on BP's Web site.
BP halted oil collection operations earlier in the day from the Helix Producer and Q4000 vessels in advance of pre-testing procedures and the well integrity test.
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